The Advocate General Lord Wallace will chair an all day forum of independent legal experts in Edinburgh today (Tuesday 21 Aug) to explore the legal and constitutional issues raised by the independence debate.
The forum of leading legal professors, senior practising lawyers and other legal experts will consider the strengths of the current constitutional arrangements which have been significantly modernised through devolution over the past 13 years, and will also explore the issues that would confront Scotland if it voted to separate from the rest of the United Kingdom.
Legal and constitutional matters affect almost every aspect of our day-to-day lives and it is important that people have a clear understanding of the choices an independent Scotland would face and who it would need to negotiate with to resolve these matters.
Independence for Scotland means Scotland would leave the UK and become an entirely new state. It would mean an end to the benefits of Scottish devolution within the UK. Whoever formed the Government in a separate Scotland would also need to consider issues such as:
- the renegotiation of international treaties;
- whether to join the European Union and how to achieve that;
- what laws and regulations should be put in place to cover areas such as pensions and banking which are currently governed on a UK-wide basis;
- which currency should Scotland adopt and how would that be achieved.
Irrespective of the decisions taken by any future independent Scottish Government on these matters, the final outcome would also depend on the outcome of political negotiations with the remainder of the UK, other states and institutions such as the European Union and NATO.
The legal forum’s analysis will inform the programme of work announced by the Scottish Secretary in June to assess the benefits of Scotland remaining part of the United Kingdom.
The intention is to provide the people of Scotland with facts and clarity to inform the debate before they vote in the independence referendum.
Lord Wallace of Tankerness QC said:
“The advantages to Scotland of our existing constitutional arrangements are often taken for granted. It will be very helpful for this forum of independent legal experts to examine the current situation and highlight the issues that Scotland would need to address if people were to vote for an independent Scotland.
“The people of Scotland need to know what the implications of independence would be for Scotland. The legal and constitutional environment will shape many of the decisions that a separate Scotland would have to make.
“It is time for some assertions to be examined by independent experts and allow people to have a better understanding of the strengths of the UK and what differences independence would bring about.
“The current Scottish Government paint a picture of a separate Scotland that retains EU membership, retains sterling as our currency, retains UK banking regulations and gains a seat on the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee. So far they have provided no credible explanation as to how they would achieve these ambitions, which at best depend on political negotiation with other states and international organisations.
“We need to have evidence and analysis at the heart of this debate. We are more than happy to have this subjected to scrutiny, and I would urge the Scottish Government to follow our lead by adopting an evidence-based approach and move away from mere assertion. The outcome of the independence referendum could take us on an irreversible path away from the rest of the UK. People need an accurate assessment of what it would mean for Scotland.”